Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day: gifts for your sweetie when you are completely broke

PC hearts H
Photo credit: hard to tell. Found on http://www.laughingriveryoga.com

Did I mention that H and I are on a $10 a day food budget right now? Just the luck of the draw, really. While I'm in forced unemployment, the running of the household is highly dependent on H's ability to snag overtime hours at the office. Due to how his office bills clients, he has to work additional hours to be eligible for overtime pay if he takes a paid vacation day. The the poor guy has to work like a demon all the time while my income has been reduced to very little.

We are very broke. While I'm not one for Valentine's day romance (blech...I really dislike canned romance of heart shaped boxes, red roses and prix fixe), we do like to spend a little extra time with one another the day before (NYC is a hot mess on Feb 14th) and we did get married this year. I'm still filled with fond, goofy, post-wedding feelings for H and I would like to give him a little gift, despite our very limited means.

So, I've decided to take a note from Jenny Steffens Hobick's Everyday Occasions and make him a little bag of sugar cookies, with royal icing designs. I'm going to print her adorable and happily free "Be Mine" tags, and affix them to a little bag of personalized cookies. I think I will make my cookies a little bit more psychedelic and little less rosebud-oriented. Her site has lots of other really cute V-day ideas worth checking out, if you want to do something a little extra special for your sweetie.

PC hearts H and H hearts cookies

Just in case you are interested in doing the same, here is the recipe I use for iced sugar cookies below.

Sugar cookies (for shaped cookies)
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder. In a separate bowl cream sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add the the flour mixture to the creamed mixture. Stir until combined (do not over stir). Chill the dough until firm (about an hour). Roll, cut out shapes and rechill. Bake cold cookies at 325, for about 10 minutes or until the edges start to brown.

When the cookies have cooled completely, you can then ice them with royal icing. Royal icing will start to harden quickly, and should be completely hard in 20 to 30 minutes.

Royal icing
2 large egg whites (or 4 Tbsp of meringue powder and 3 Tbsp of water)
1 pound icing/confectioner's sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
food coloring.

Pretty straightforward - combine until smooth. I usually split it into a few batches to add coloring.

If you want the effect of a full, smooth coat of icing, like in the pictures above, outline the cookie in a slightly thicker icing using an icing bag or a little plastic bag with the tip cut off. Then take the same icing and thin it slightly with water - so that it is just a little, tiny bit runnier than the outline icing and gently pipe it into the space left by the outline. It should smooth itself out, and harden in 20 minutes. Before then, though, you can throw in thinned icing in other colours and make little designs.

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